“I’m gunna take my shoes off! Everyone who knows me knows I love shoes, but right now, I’m sorry, those hurt Manolo. I’m not gunna wear them.”
Nope, Kelly Hoey has not just plopped down on my couch. This was in front of 300 women at the Philly Women in Tech Summit, held last weekend at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. (Which is the coolest building, by the way. Check it out here.) However, I think these first sentences of her talk demonstrate why Kelly is such a compelling speaker and mentor: she is down-to-earth, honest, and funny.
Kelly started her career as a lawyer in Canada and since then has taken many turns, including work in commercial mortgage-backed securities in New York City and attorney training and development, where she headed up and built professional development initiatives. Most recently, she has jumped into technology, angel investment, and mobile ventures.
“More accurately, at this point in my life, I’m a start-over. I seem to do that a lot.”
But, it seems as though this “start-over” mentality has paid off for Kelly. It has allowed her to found a start-up accelerator for mobile technology, become an active voice in the investment community (check her out on CNBC’s Power Pitch), and become recognized as one of five Women Changing VC and Entrepreneurship (Forbes).
“In 2011, I cofounded the first start-up accelerator investing exclusively in mobile ventures founded by women. Women are a good investment. They start good companies; you are extraordinarily capital-efficient, you return investors’ money. The fact that the investing community overlooks you as an investment…I look at the boys and I say thank you. If you are going to be that foolish, you will pay the price! When we all take over.”
And if you want to know the current environment for start-ups and VC, Kelly is the person to ask. In addition to the start-up accelerator she founded in 2011, her work has spanned tech companies in all sectors and sizes, with a focus on investing in women. Just take one look at her LinkedIn page—she is clearly doing something right. And she seems to be having so much fun doing it.
“What is the life you want to lead? What rocks your world? What resources do you need to achieve your career goals? And, most importantly, don’t take your career for granted. Own your career, and all the choices you make to pursue it. When I started owning my career, a funny thing happened: my career got a whole lot more interesting.”
“I plan on being dragged out of my office like Helen Gurley Brown, or Warren Buffet. I will retire at the age Warren does, or Charlie Munger, his partner. I’m unapologetically a workaholic. And rightly or not, I have put my career first. I have been leaning in for so long now, that I don’t know what it’s like to do otherwise.”
In the meat of her talk, Kelly offered us three major pieces of advice. Sometimes, I find that advice given in speeches and can feel canned or too general. But the way Kelly delivered her words of wisdom really resonated with me.
Build your expertise, build your network, and build your bank account.”
Build Your Expertise
Kelly certainly lives this piece of advice. Moving from insolvency law in Canada to technology investment in NYC, she constantly reinvented her expertise and continued to learn. She even said, “I stand before you as someone who feels as though her career is just getting started.”
Forbes seemed to think so too. They named her an Up & Comer at age 48!
Build Your Network
But, she acknowledged that networking can be challenging, especially when you first start. It can feel forced or not authentic. It can be scary to walk into a room filled with strangers and just strike up a conversation.
“Anyone who tells you they love networking: liar, liar, pants on fire.”
However, she stressed how necessary it is, particularly for people looking for investors or people to financially back their idea. The networking begins long before you ask for money. Venture capitalists and angel investors are investing in the person. They want to know that person is reliable. “Ideas change. Markets change. At the end of the day, we’re betting on that jockey. Can you execute?”
Build Your Bank Account
“Build your bank account. This is your Yes Me fund. This is not your retirement fund. This is the fund that allows you to pursue your dream job or to launch your venture. You need to have this account so you can say, ‘Yes’ in the near future. The Yes Me fund has allowed me to angel invest, found the start-up accelerator I mentioned, spend a year contemplating what’s next, and write a book proposal.”
“Create that Yes Me fund, because it allows you to invest in the most important thing you have, which is yourself, and your future, and your dream.”
In addition to investing in your own dreams, Kelly also pointed out the importance of investing in other women. “We as women need to think in terms of return. We need to do business with each other and promote each others’ business by investing in it.”
This is my favorite piece of advice, because it is not something I currently do. Obviously, my grad student stipend will not make me an angel investor anytime soon, but she also points out that we can all make meaningful investments everyday, even if we are not directly investing seed capital.
“The wealthiest demographic in human history is American women over the age of 45. 70% of wealth in this country is going to be in the hands of women in the next five to ten years. We’re earning it, we’re inheriting it. Guess what, boys, we live longer! So what I’m saying is: what are you doing with it? Think about every single purchase decision you make. From cars to homes to gallons of milk to stocks. We have the ability to move markets. Look at 2020 Women on Boards. If we control the purse, why are we investing in companies that don’t see us as leaders? Why are we investing in companies that don’t advance us up the corporate chain? We could say, ‘Well I’m only one person.’ But if we all take that attitude, nothing changes.”
After checking out 2020 Women on Boards (a project Kelly consulted on!) I was surprised at how many women-centric companies have so few women on their Board of Directors. Definitely worth checking out.
At the end, Kelly left us with some final words of advice. About nametags.
“One networking tip to everyone. Your nametag goes right here, on your right shoulder. Why? Because you do [handshakes with] your right hand. If they’re shaking your hand, they look right at your shoulder and they see the name.”
Don’t pin it on your skirt waist or at chest-level. Awkward. And no one will remember your name. “That is my really practical networking tip.”
Thanks Kelly, can we be best friends now?